Groff sets girls goal-scoring record
The odds may have been stacked against her. And an injury on the last day of September against Palmerton certainly didn't help her cause to make history.
But as the second-to-last regular season game against Northern Lehigh approached, there was still hope for Salisbury forward Mackenzie Groff. Two regular season games remained, and if things went right for the Lady Falcons, a number of league and district playoff games could also be on the horizon for the senior to cement her name atop the school's all-time leading goal scorers.
It turns out that all she needed was that league contest against the Bulldogs.
Groff exploded for seven goals against Northern Lehigh on October 7 to give her 64 career goals and 42 for her final season. She broke Tabitha Penuel's previous record of 63 goals.
"I'm really happy with how our season is going," Groff said. "Playing with my team and being able to break a school record feels awesome and surreal. I never thought I would be able to break the school record."
In the Lady Falcons' 1-0 loss to Palmerton back on September 30, Groff landed awkwardly and bruised her tailbone. She hasn't been fully healthy since that game.
But with potential history still very much alive, her determination and drive took over in the final week of the regular season.
"I had a bruise on my tailbone for a while," Groff said. "And then I pulled both groin muscles.
"I was not feeling my best, and I really didn't think I was going to be able to break it. I guess my adrenaline kind of took over, and I was able to do it."
The record-breaking tally was one set up by sophomore Caylin Meikrantz. The two have been connecting on numerous scoring opportunities all season, and it only seems fitting that the Meikrantz-to-Groff connection put her in territory all by herself.
"I think Caylin passed it to me, and then I played it back to her with a one-touch," Groff said. "She one-touched it right through two defenders, and I ran onto it and played it in.
"She basically gives me all of my assists. Without her, I wouldn't have scored as many goals as I did. Basically without my entire team, there was no way I would have done it without them."
It's always a tough decision for a coach to make-bench your key players when the game is well in-hand. But how do you sit a player that is on the brink of history, one who is also tied for the most goals scored this season in the state?
After subbing Groff out in the first half, head coach Rick Babyak inserted his leading goal-scorer back into the lineup. When she broke the record in the second half, Babyak pulled her again.
"He let me play a little bit in the second half," Groff said. "He said, 'Just be careful, and I'll let you play so you can try to break the record.'
"I was really nervous because I needed seven going into Northern Lehigh."
Groff never could have anticipated where she would wind up in terms of career goal scorers at Salisbury. It seemed well out of reach early in her career, especially since she didn't play as a freshman.
But after each passing game, with her totals rising in the scoring department, it eventually became a possibility.
"Maybe when I was like 13 [goals] away my coach brought it up to me that I was getting close," Groff said. "I honestly had no idea. I thought the record was so far out of my reach, like 100 goals or something."
Above all else, Groff is looking to keep the Lady Falcons' season alive. After a 3-0 loss to No. 1 seed Saucon Valley in the Colonial League semifinals, Salisbury finds itself matched up up against a familiar foe as the District 11 Class AA Tournament gets underway on Wednesday. The No. 8 Lady Falcons host No. 9 Palisades on at 5:30 p.m. The two have met in the first round of the previous two district tournaments as well, with each team picking up a victory.
"We always play them in the first round," Groff said. "If we would beat Palisades, then we have to play Northwestern on Friday. We're kind of nervous about that because we didn't do so well against them the last time. But we're going to play our best, and we'll see what happens."